What are we to make of these trends? A 2009 Gallup Poll shows that Protestant and Catholic levels of church attendance are converging. But the Catholics who attend mass weekly are getting older, while an increasing proportion of young Protestants are attending church services. Thoughts from readers who have studied these trends would be appreciated.
Click here to see more graphs. According to Gallup’s summary:
The increasingly spare attendance at regular mass has been of considerable concern to the Catholic Church in the United States for some time. Theologians and other observers have variously offered the cultural upheaval of the 1960s, changes to the church brought about in the 1960s by the Second Vatican Council, and national publicity in 2002 over sexual abuse lawsuits against Catholic priests as possible contributors to the trend.
Whatever the causes, it is clear that U.S. Catholics’ once-nearly uniform obedience to their church’s requirement of weekly mass attendance has faded, and Catholics are now no different from Protestants in their likelihood to attend church. This has occurred among Catholics of all age categories, but is most pronounced among those under 60. The good news for the Catholic Church is that the drop in attendance seems to have slowed or abated altogether in the last decade, spanning a most difficult period for the church around 2002, when attendance did suffer temporarily.
U.S. Protestant church attendance has also been steady over the past decade, but is actually higher now than it was in the 1970s and 1980s, in part the result of a resurgence of regular attendance among young adults.
In immigrant communities across the United States, a battle is being waged for the souls of Hispanics – and a distinctly American style of worship is beginning to take hold.
According to a landmark study, as many as 600,000 Hispanics in this country leave the Catholic Church every year in favor of Protestant evangelical churches.
Furthermore, of the approximately 30 percent of Hispanics nationwide who identify themselves as non-Catholic, the vast majority are affiliated with an evangelical or “born-again” church.
Catholicism remains by far the largest religious denomination for U.S. Hispanics, but because Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, any shift in the way they worship promises to make a huge impact on America’s religious landscape. Examples of this trend can be seen in the Santa Maria Valley as small storefront churches pop up in shopping centers and some Catholic priests report the loss of some members of their flocks.